Virginia Economic Outlook Continues to Improve During Q3

CEOs expect sales to increase over the next six months.
October 16, 2020

UNIVERSITY OF RICHMOND —The University of Richmond’s Robins School of Business and the Virginia Council of CEOs’ quarterly CEO Economic Outlook Survey finds that expectations over the next six months for sales and employment all improved compared with expectations at the end of Q2 while expectations of capital spending decreased somewhat.

More than half of CEOs (61%) indicated that they expect sales to increase over the next six months. Approximately 3% expected sales to be “significantly higher” while 58% expected sales to be “higher.” Additionally, approximately 23% expected sales to be “lower” while approximately 3% expected sales to be “significantly lower.”

Compared to expectations at the end of Q1, 46% of CEOs reported Q3 revenue as “much better than expected” while 8% reported Q3 revenue as “much worse than expected” with another 46% reporting revenue “about as expected”. 

Almost 43% of respondent CEOs expect employment to remain flat over the next six months. Additionally, nearly 40% expect employment to increase while 17% expect employment to fall. 

More than 80% of CEOs expect to continue to operate without significant layoffs. Only about 13% expect layoffs, while about 6% are uncertain at this time. 

Approximately 25% of CEOs expect capital spending to decrease over the next six months (compared with 36% last quarter), while more than 14% expect capital spending to increase. More than 60% expect capital spending to remain flat. 

Taken as a whole, the results pertaining to sales, capital spending, and employment produce an improvement in economic outlook over results from the end of Q2. 

The Robins School and VACEOs jointly conduct the quarterly survey, which regularly asks about expectations for sales, capital spending, and employment, plus other relevant issues, helping Virginia companies anticipate business conditions and plan for growth. The Robins School adapted the survey from the Business Roundtable, an association of CEOs of American companies that conducts a similar survey nationally. Rich Boulger, associate dean at the Robins School, administers the survey and collects the responses. The quarterly survey has been administered since 2010. 

The following survey results from Q2 2020 (June) and Q3 (September) 2020 show projections for the next six months for sales, capital spending and employment:

Projected 6 months sales, capital spending and employment

 

 

2020 Q2

2020 Q3

Increase

No Change

Decrease

Increase

No Change

Decrease

How do you expect your company’s sales to change in the next six months?

43.2%

 18.9%

 37.8%

60.9%

 12.5%

 26.6%

How do you expect your company’s U.S. capital spending to change in the next six months?

 20.3%

 43.2%

 36.5%

 14.3%

 60.3%

 25.4%

How do you expect your company’s U.S. employment to change in the next six months?

 29.7%

 52.7%

 17.6%

 39.7%

 42.9%

 17.5%

“The survey results continue to suggest a positive outlook over the next six months” said Boulger. “The index, which consists of an average of Virginia Council of CEO members’ expectations with respect to sales, capital spending, and employment, continues to rise (65.2 versus 50.4 last quarter) at this difficult time.” 

“These data reflect what I am hearing from small business CEOs. The pace of recovery is slowing”, said Scot McRoberts, executive director of VACEOs. “The lack of another round of stimulus from Congress seem to be a contributor, along with the crippling effects of the pandemic on certain sectors of the economy.”

“The economic climate appears to have settled into a steady growth scenario, which should aid business leaders in making decisions going forward,” said Mickey Quiñones, dean of the Robins School. “However, with uncertainties surrounding the pandemic and future government stimulus, we are clearly not out of the woods yet.”

Economic Outlook Index

Survey Date

CEO Economic Outlook Index

Q3 2020

65.2

Q2 2020

50.43

May 2020

26.2

April 2020

-1.33

Q1 2020

-18.73

Q4 2019

101.47

Q3 2019

86.33

Q2 2019

94.13

Q1 2019

100.5

Q4 2018

97.97

Q3 2018

104.3

Q2 2018

92.73

Q1 2018

94.6

Q4 2017

106.3

Q3 2017

99.17

Q2 2017

103.63

Q1 2017

108.97*

Q4 2016

107.37

Q3 2016

89.67

Q2 2016

89

Q1 2016

102

Q4 2015

92.67

Q3 2015

99.8

Q2 2015

93.42

Q1 2015

93.9

Q4 2014

95.92

Q3 2014

96.1

Q2 2014

88.71

Q1 2014

86.07

Q4 2013

89.57

Q3 2013

92.53

Q2 2013

91.6

Q1 2013

86.4

Q4 2012

77.57

Q3 2012

81.17

Q2 2012

81.13

Q1 2012

94.1

Q4 2011

88.63

Q3 2011

81.17

Q2 2011

74.17

Q1 2011

85.63

Q4 2010

92.27

Q3 2010

94.47

Q2 2010

81.33

* Record high

Sixty-three CEOs responded to the survey, which was administered September 28 – October 5, 2020. Multiple industries are represented in the sample, including construction, manufacturing, finance, insurance, and retail. The average company whose CEO responded to this survey had about $15.6 million in revenue for the most recent 12-month period. The average employment was about 71.

The Council continues to expand the survey beyond its members, offering any area business owners whose companies gross at least $1 million in annual revenue the opportunity to participate. If enough businesses participate, the Council will provide survey results by industry. Participation is free, and all participants will receive copies of the survey data.

Business owners and CEOs who would like to participate in the next survey should contact Scot McRoberts at smcroberts@vaceos.org.

The Virginia Council of CEOs is a nonprofit association whose mission is to connect the CEOs of small and mid-sized businesses for learning and growth. The Council is led by a volunteer board of directors, advisory board and a small staff. Currently, there are 235 CEO members, mainly in Richmond and Charlottesville. Learn more at www.vaceos.org.

The Robins School of Business is the only fully accredited, highly-ranked undergraduate business school that also is part of a highly-ranked liberal arts university. U.S. News ranks the Robins School’s MBA program #2 in Virginia. The school’s executive education division offers customized training and consulting to area businesses.

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Media interested in learning more about the University of Richmond’s Robins School of Business and the Virginia Council of CEOs’ quarterly CEO Economic Outlook Survey should contact Associate Vice President of Media & Public Relations Cynthia Price at cprice2@richmond.edu